AZRAAI Khor Abdullah was all praise for two-goal hero Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona after Negri Sembilan won the Charity Shield for the first time with a dramatic 2-1 win over Kelantan on Saturday.
Azraai hails Owona who buries Kelantan with a double
“Owona made the difference today (Saturday). We played direct football and Owona scored from Kelantan’s mistakes,” said a delighted Azraai at Bukit Jalil after the match.
The Cameroon striker sealed the win at the National Stadium when he headed past Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat in the 63rd minute to complete a brilliant comeback for the Malaysia Cup champions after they had found themselves 1-0 down after 20 minutes.
Questions were raised over Owona’s fitness and form before the season, but the coach was delighted to see him put Kelantan to the sword.
“We played a 4-4-2 formation but changed our game plan as and when we needed and Owona, at times, was playing as a lone striker. He, however, did very well to trouble Kelantan’s backline,” said Azraai.
“Owona is the only foreign player in my squad and I hope he will continue to perform. He is an incredible footballer and if he continues to play good football, he will be a star in the M-League.”
Owona cancelled out Kelantan’s lead by Norshahrul Idlan Talaha in the 30th minute before scoring the winner in the second half.
The striker said he was looking forward to score more goals in the season which starts tomorrow.
“It was a difficult match but we matched our fancied opponents and took our chances well. Football is a weird game … I may be a hero today but tomorrow I may not be so lucky. I, however, need to maintain my form and score as many goals,” said the 28-year-old Owona, who previously played for FC Metz in the French Division Two league.
Azraai played down the psychological impact of Negri’s win ahead of the start of the Super League season but regarding Saturday’s triumph, the former national Under-23 coach was satisfied with his young squad.
Midfielder-turned-defender G. Mahathevan and Abdul Halim Zainal, along with new signings Muszaki Abu Bakar, Rashid Mahmud and Ahmad Shakir Ali, all caught the eye with impressive displays as Negri played with efficiency and precision, which proved too much for their opponents.
Negri were without regulars Shukor Adan and Idris Karim – who both failed late fitness tests. “You can never be confident in the Super League, it’s a difficult league. A number of teams could be challenging for the title and it will be a difficult season for us,” said Azraai.
“I thought it was a good performance. For us, I think it just confirmed what I thought about the squad. People have been saying that we’re not as good as last season, but you’ve got to remember we have a lot of young players who will improve.
“Mahathevan and Abdul Halim Zainal were not regulars last season but they played today (Saturday) and both played well.” With one title in the bag, Negri will be hoping for a perfect start to the Super League when they take on Selangor in Paroi tomorrow.